Straight from “The Source”

In the not too distant past, a guy with a big idea got together with some Harvard classmates and created a new product that tapped a movement, struck a nerve and appealed to millions of other young people.

The story may sound like Mark Zuckerberg and the beginnings of Facebook. But in this case, the bright young guy with the big idea was James Bernard (pictured, below). In 1988, while at Harvard Law School he was the leader of the team that launched The Source magazine, one of hip-hop’s most enduring brands. Later, he introduced XXL magazine by again tapping hip-hop music, culture and politics.

“The reason The Source worked was that it felt like a crusade,” said James, during a recent visit to City College where he addressed MCA 101 students. “The same with XXL

James is on to his next big thing, this time a social networking platform for mobile phones targeted to young urbanites. He describes his venture, Xango, as a family of apps for the phone with interesting content that will also “sell you cool stuff.”

“It’s like a living room, concierge, town hall all in your pocket,” he says. “It combines the social network effect of a digital platform with monetization.”

James has worked on the project for two years and is on the hunt for investors and partners. He’s excited about the move from print to mobile media. “Most Americans are isolated, lonely and bored,” he explains. “The mobile is about being out in the world, being live and connected.”

After James’s guest lecture, the students were assigned to pitch their own digital businesses. Here are their big ideas:

Academic Benefit Collection: a digital subscription service that helps people better their educational experiences and academic futures. (Laura Pilloni)

Buyer Live: online shopping via television shows (Jonathan Alvarado)

Fiction Collide: a worldwide, social network community for gamers. (Carlos Albarracin)

Digital Entertainment Provider (DEP): a website and media sharing services that brings together movies, music and video games. (Luis Ortega)

Integrated Savings and Loan (ISLLINK.com): an online bank with highly competitive services and rates. (Colin McIntyre)

Interconnected.com: a social network targeted to urban professional women, 25 to 40. (Sarah Grossman)

iwantthat.com: a site that allows users to buy clothes they see on major TV shows. (Mike Gugliada)

Know It Inc.: a search engine to keep subscribers “in the know”–about news and celebrity sightings. (Chavelyn Perez)

MetroPlus: a service that allows you to use NYC public transportation using your camera phone in place of a Metrocard. (Emily Goldblum)

MYUnderSound: a website and app to link users to the underground music scene (Amanda Rivera)

NYC Guide: an online and mobile search engine that helps teens and adults connect interesting places to visit in New York. (Aveena Ramoutar)

Oneness: an app that helps you organize your life, aimed at spiritual/socially conscious consumers. (Rodni-Kaye Thorpe-Rankine)

The Perfect Dater: online help for couples (or friends) who want to make date nights special. (Raven Robinson)

Vandal Arts: an entertainment production and guerilla marketing company and showcase for the arts, hip-hop, design, music, fashion and culture. (Sean Bryan–he’s already got it up!)

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